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How do adults learn?

Although we can force adults to attend a training course, yet we canít force them to learn what is presented in such training course. We canít push adults to learn, yet we can make them pull the learning benefits, by triggering their motivation about the presented topic. Although many books and theories were written about such topic, yet the fact remains that adults learning depends on many factors, of which adults desire to learn is one of such factors. Keeping this in mind, in this blog, I will share with you how to optimize adultsí leaning experience, and approach it effectively, by applying the following:
  • Adults canít be forced to learn, unless they choose to do so because they evaluate the benefits of the proposed learning experience, and ask: what is in it for me? if the answer to such question is positive, they will be naturally motivated to learn, other wise, they will decline learning.
  • Adults are motivated to learn new KAS, if it helps enhancing their performance, and overcoming operational challenges and deficiencies.
  • Adults learning experience must tackle a specific and well-defined learning concepts, to prevent confusion and accelerate comprehension.
  • Adults need continuous feedback and encouragement, to adjust their performance, during the learning process, and adapt in to the process successfully.
  • Adults view learning as a tool, which positively impacts their self-esteem; provides the opportunity to interact with others; motivates to achieve desired results; and shine their "professional ego".
  • Adults are intrigued by new ideas and concepts, and triggers their curiosity to learn, specially if related to their daily work, and helps to improve the quality and efficiency of the working cycle.
  • Adults need to working in a ďblame-freeĒ environment, to feel safe and secure from being pointed at, and motivated to apply the newly obtained KAS, without reluctance or fear of criticism.
  • Adults view learning experience as an opportunity to express themselves and share their experience with others. This is so, because they have a wealth of experience, and feel proud to share it with others. So, learning tools should focus on this matter.
  • Adults learn through systematic and structured learning experience, to end up with a valid learning outcome.
  • Adults prefer self-learning techniques, to integrate learned concepts with existing KAS and experience.
  • Adults thrive on feedback, to adjust their performance and expectations. Feedback should be precocious and concise, and in timely fashion.
  • Adults learn differently, as each one has his preferred learning style. Such preferred style does not reflect strength or ability, as much as it reflects how adults approach learning.
  • Adults learn by doing because of their experience and maturity.
Professional trainers and consultants should be aware of the above matters, to cater to, in their service delivery, to ensure results delivery. I strongly feel that working with adults is a challenge, and requires a talent. Adults canít be forced to learn any thing they are not interested in. If adults are not sold the benefits of the proposed learning, it will be a waste of resources for the company to apply such learning experience, and because of this, we always wonder why we don not beneficial ROI on the training conducted!

Nizar Baidoun (CT, MBA, BCom, DCS)
Trainer & Consultant

Online profile @
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From Kuwait, Kuwait
Oh dear! you have missed the most significant information. All our systems particularly Our nervous systems participate in every learning. Till very recently it was believed that development of the brain stops at mid teens.
Nay. It is false. New brain cells can generate at any age. This is the core theme of neuroplasticity. So convince your trainees first that ageing is a myth. So also stagnation/degeneration of learning ability is also a myth.

From India, Delhi
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